Monday, November 2, 2009

Save Money on Vacation Golf


I’m a big Troon Golf fan.  Among the Troon courses I’ve played include Bahia Beach in Puerto Rico, Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Florida, Camp Creek, Watercolor, Florida, Palmilla Golf Course, Los Cabos, Mexico, Westin La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, The Grove in London, England and Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort in Savannah, Georgia.  Superbly maintained and managed, Troon Courses are high-profile and reliable in all phases.

Recently, Troon announced the launch of the 2010 Troon Card Program, offering green fee discounts of up to 50 percent. With more than 40 participating facilities, the 2010 Troon Card offers discounts at more luxury golf courses than ever before. Additionally, this year’s Arizona TwoSome card is priced at $375 until November 6, 2009, offering a $150 savings compared to last year’s price. The National Twosome card is priced at $500, saving cardholders $175 on purchases made prior to December 7, 2009.

Returning to the Troon Card Program is the “Unlimited Golf” offer that allows cardholders and qualifying guests replay rounds for just $10 per player. The card’s “Best Rate Guarantee” ensures that cardholders always receive the best rate by extending $5 off promotional rates at participating clubs. Card choices include the Arizona TwoSome and FourSome, accepted at 11 courses across Scottsdale, Phoenix and Tucson, as well as the California/Nevada Troon Cards accepted at eight courses in Las Vegas and Southern California. The National card option extends rate privileges at more than 40 courses located in 15 states and in Mexico.

 “With six different card choices to choose from, golf enthusiasts are able to play more golf at world-class venues at better prices than ever,” stated Guy Sugden, director of the Troon Card Program.

Currently on sale, the 2010 Troon Cards are valid November 1, 2009 until December 31, 2010. Card purchases prior to December 7, 2009 receive an “Early Bird” discount. To view a list of participating courses, gather more information about terms and conditions or to purchase a Troon Card online, visit www.troongolf.com (select the “e-store” link) or call 1.888.TROON U.S. Cardholders who purchase at a participating facility, online or by mail, save an additional $25 off the Early Bird price.  

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Waldorf Astoria Orlando Golf Club Opens


I attended the star-studded opening of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando earlier this month. Political luminaries like Florida Governor Charlie Crist and golf course designer Rees Jones were in attendance for the ribbon-cutting.

In between a lavish dinner at the Bull & Bear Steakhouse, cocktails at Peacock Alley and breakfast at Oscar's, I didn't have time to play a round of golf on the resort's new course. I did, however, take a cart tour and spoke briefly with Jones. I was very impressed.

I'm itching to play the 7,108-yard layout. The course weaves through giant stands of pine and cypress trees and Jones did a great job of utilizing the land's existing contours. Winding through a large wetland preserve, the courses has a par 72, slope 139 and 74.6 from its professional tees. There are five sets of tees so all playing abilities will find it challenging as they want it to be.

Jones is a master at designing courses for the ultimate user. I believe Waldorf Astoria Orlando Golf Club will easily take its place as one of Orlando's top resort layouts.

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando and the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club have put together a special introductory offer for golfers. The WA Golf package includes accommodations in a golf-view room at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, two rounds of golf, and a $20 dining credit per person with rates beginning at $329 per room, per night, based on double occupancy. The offer is good to December 24, 2009. Cal 1-800-925-3673 or book online at www.waldorfastoriaorlando.com


Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Favorite Golf Resort Amenities

When you travel as much as I do, it's the little things that count. It's the flight attendant that rewards you with an extra bag of peanuts, the bellman who actually brings your bags directly to your room not 30 minutes later and the bartender who eschews the jigger on your Bloody Mary. Any intrepid business traveler knows what I'm talking about.

That said, here are five little things that make a difference to me:

Crunchy Apples

At the 10th tee at Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida, a block or so from the Orange County Convention Center, there’s an inconspicuous container filled with fresh, chilled, crispy, red apples. You can have your hot dog smothered with chili and onions at the turn, I’ll take one of the apples, which are a great pick-me-up. In a close second place are the apples on the front desk at the main hotel at Pinehurst Resort.

Charcoal Chicken Sandwich

The halfway hut at Bahia Beach Resort & Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico has, what I consider, the best grilled chicken sandwich on the planet. This is not some lame, tasteless piece of poultry prepared on a gas grill. No, here they use real charcoal. Before they grill, the chicken is marinated in concoction of lime juice, onions, green pepper and garlic. It’s served on a crispy Puerto Rican roll. Chase it down with an ice-cold Medalla beer and you’ve got heaven on earth, brother.

Meet Arnie

If you stay at the 70-room Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, there’s a good chance you’ll run into Arnie, especially during the winter months. Palmer can be spotted just about anywhere on the property from the golf course and clubhouse to the dining room and front lobby. Bay Hill is a private club and besides an invitation from a member the only way you can play it is to stay at the lodge.

Steps at St. Andrews

About 50 yards or so away from the 18th green at the Old Course in St. Andrews are steps that lead up to the clubhouse. At the end of the day, there’s no better place to sit and watch golfers finish their rounds. You’ll see everything from Americans just glad to be there to grumpy locals who aren’t so glad to have Americans around. In the distance you can see the Swilcan Bridge and the Old Course Hotel. If nothing else, sit for a few minutes, take a few deep breaths and fully soak up one of golf's great panoramas.

Donald Ross Grill

Oozing with history and once operated by Donald Ross, this is the ideal spot to conclude an early morning round at Pinehurst Resort with a great lunch. Overlooking the world's largest putting green and Putterboy statue, it's ideally situated in the clubhouse complex. Following my favorite lunch, a Maniac Hill Club Sandwich with hickory smoked bacon and Beefsteak tomatoes and a large unsweetened tee (the locals love the sweetened, but it's way too sugary) I exit through the front door, take a right to walk through a hallway dotted with historic photos and proceed to gaze at the Payne Stewart statue just outside the side door by the pro shop.






Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The World Cup of Golf


With all the recent talk about the Olympic Games including golf in 2016, many golfers have forgotten we already have a worldwide competition. It’s called the World Cup. Several years ago I saw some matches when the World Cup was held at Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando and it was a great event with lots of pomp and circumstance. If you'll remember, Fred Couples and Davis Love III used to dominate the World Cup in the 1990s.

Greg Norman recently visited 12-course Mission Hills Golf Club, situated an hour from Hong Kong, and shared his thoughts on the World Cup and golf's bright future in China .Norman -- a two-time Open Champion and Captain of the International squad for the 2009 Presidents Cup -- competed in the 1976 and 1978 World Cups.

 "I remember one of my goals in 1976 was to be the youngest, I believe, and the quickest player to make the Australian World Cup team," says Norman . "I turned professional in October of 1976 and won a tournament that month and the World Cup team was chosen in November to go to Palm Springs in the United States . It was a goal of mine right from the get-go to represent my country."

He continues: "No matter where you go and play as an individual in a tournament you do represent your country. But to actually carry your flag for your country with a partner in the World Cup is an extremely high prize in my mind."

The Omega Mission Hills World Cup will be played for the third straight year on the club's  Olazabal Course, November 26-29. Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Y.E. Yang are among the players scheduled to participate in the event's 55th edition. Featuring 28 two-man teams from nations around the globe, the World Cup is golf's closest approximation to the Olympic Games.

Last year, the Swedish team of Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson shot a sterling 63 in Sunday's alternate shot format to claim a three-stroke victory over Spain .

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Finally Some Good News


Hey, this might not equate with the “Cash for Clunkers” deal or the expanded $1 menu at Wendy’s, but at least St. Andrews Links Trust courses aren’t raising their prices.

Green fees for 2010 will stay at 2009 levels.  The high season green free for the Old Course will stay at $211; the new Castle Course  $195; New and Jubilee courses $105; Eden Course $65; Strathtyrum Course $40; and the 9-hole Balgove $19. (Prices quoted are based on Sept. 3rd exchange rate and are subject to fluctuate slightly)

Ready to tee it up in windy ol’ Scotland? You can make tee times at the Trust courses at www.standrews.org.uk

Oh yeah, don’t delay, either, the Advanced Reservations process for play on the Old Course and the Castle Courses opened on September 2nd and within 15 minutes more than 800 email applications had been received.

 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Top 5 Annoying Things About Resort Golf



First let me state I’m not some bitter Andy Rooney type that’s always on the prowl for something negative.  I’m a pretty easy-going guy, but after more than 20 years of playing golf at resorts around the world, I’ve compiled a list of things that annoy me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the chocolates on the pillow, hydrotherapies at the spa, the fresh apples on the counter at check-in and various other resort amenities.

The following, however, is what I don’t like.

1.  Surly Starters—There’s nothing worse than beginning a round in some fabulous setting only to be admonished by some overworked grump who acts like a suspicious border guard.  After a scowl and a lecture about the dozens of things NOT to do, he tells you to have a great day. Sure pal. After listening to the stern speech, I suspect the guy might chase me down if I somehow momentarily forget about the 90-degree rule.

2.  Overpriced Logo Merchandise—What a country! Let me get this straight.  I travel a long distance, pay hundreds sometimes thousands of dollars to stay, play and dine and you reward me with the opportunity to pay $125 for a golf shirt emblazoned with the resort’s logo. Then, I wear my overpriced logo shirt back home and advertise your resort for free to all my friends and family.

3.  Overpriced Golf Balls—Golf balls at resort pro shops have prominently taken their place in the “Ridiculous Pricing Hall of Fame” along with airport hot dogs, beers at the U.S. Open and hotel rooms at the host city during Super Bowl Week. Give us a break please. Chances are we’re going to hit them into all the strategically placed lakes and ponds and you’ll get to resell them.

4.  Sleepy Marshalls—One of the reasons for so much slow play is resorts are afraid to hire marshalls that will actually tell groups slower than pack mules to keep moving.  I know they’re paid to be back-slappers and cheer up golfers, but, puh-lease, get people moving.  I want to get back to the clubhouse for a few libations, not just a nightcap.

5.  The $4 Bottle of Water—I play lots of resort golf in Florida where the temperature in the summer seems to reach microwave oven levels.  Sometimes if you end up playing towards the end of the day, the water jugs on the course tend to be depleted with melted ice.  The water is warm enough to brew tea. What’s the solution? Voila, here comes the cart girl with an 8 oz. bottle of water for $4.  Let’s see, either die from the heat or fork over the 4 bucks. I pay like everybody else.  It doesn’t really bother me until I get home and realize my wife has just returned from Costco with a case of water that cost her $3.99.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Would Tiger Woods Do?


Let’s say you’ve won 14 majors and 70 PGA Tour tournaments and you’ve got so much money piled up that the U.S. government might be seeking a loan from you soon.

Let’s say you’re Tiger Woods. Where would you go on vacation?

Woods likes to keep his private life private, so we’re left to guess the answer to the question.

Through some devoted sleuthing, I’ve narrowed down the destinations where Tiger Woods might go to kick back and relax.

Tiger’s vacation itinerary might include one of these places:

California-On his web-site www.TigerWoods.com he says his perfect day is to “surf, ski, play golf and go spear-fishing in the same day."  There aren’t many places on the planet you can do all those things, but California, where Woods grew up, can accommodate him.

Caribbean-In an interview I did with Woods for a Stratos Magazine feature he stated, “We enjoy spending time on our boat and just getting away. It’s very peaceful and I can dive or swim when I want to.”  The calm waters of the Caribbean provide perfect conditions for Woods’ 155-foot yacht predictably named “Privacy”.

Los Cabos, Mexico—Woods, who reportedly owns 17 fishing rods and reels, is a fishing enthusiast.  One of the best places to catch big game fish is off the coast of Los Cabos where the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez meet.

Asheville, North Carolina-Tiger Woods Design, Woods’ golf course design firm, recently announced its first domestic project at the Cliffs at High Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Dubai-Woods reportedly is building a 16,500-square-foot home at a golf course he’s designing in Dubai.

Orlando, Florida-If he decides to stay at home and not venture far from Windermere, he’s only a few miles from some of the world’s greatest theme parks.

So, if you were Tiger, where would you go?

If I were Tiger, I’d take a swing by the bank, then decide.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Be a Patriot


Patriot Golf Day has become one of my favorite days in golf--right there behind Sunday at the Masters and the first day of the season that Tiger Woods tees it up.

The third annual Patriot Golf Day, a joint initiative of the PGA of America and the USGA, allows golfers the opportunity to donate an additional $1 each green fee that is processed September 4-7.  Many golf courses and resorts are participating.  The proceed provide post-secondary educational scholarships through the Folds of Honor Foundation to families of those who have become disabled or lost their lives in the line of duty.  In my hometown, Orlando, Hawk's Landing Golf Club at the Orlando World Center Marriott is participating in the event.

In 2008, more than $2.1 million was raised at more than 3,800 golf facilities nationwide.

The event has an added special meaning because I'm from Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Patriot Golf Day was inspired by Major Dan Rooney, a PGA Professional and USGA member from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (a Tulsa suburb), who served three tours of duty in Iraq as an F-16 pilot.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Caddies Rule

Most Americans have never played with a caddie.

No wonder.

In this age of sprawling, unwalkable courses, golf cart traffic jams, electronic yardage finders and elaborate course guide brochures, a dwindling number of American golfers wouldn't know a caddie unless he came up and whacked him on the head with a nine-iron.

Fact is, a solid, professional caddie who knows his trade can make a difference of at least two shots in a round to a scratch golfer and more to higher handicap golfers.  More importantly, the experience returns golfers to the traditional approach to a round of golf. 

While you might think the caddie has gone all extinction on us like your favorite dinosaur, you would be mistaken.  Several high-profile resorts offer caddie programs.  Among my favorites are:
          
           Grande Lakes Resort, Orlando, Florida

Features the Ritz-Carlton Caddie Concierge concept with trained, service-first, forecaddies that make a round enjoyable for all skill-levels.  During winter months, every caddie wears a white jumpsuit reminiscent of those worn at Augusta National Golf Club. The Greg Norman-designed course is also a terrific resort layout with generously wide landing areas for corporate golf types who don't play more than once or twice a month.www.grandelakes.com

Bandon Dunes, Bandon Dunes, Oregon

     All three courses are walking only and the caddies, available upon request, are knowledgeable and well trained.  For many Americans, the courses, which are set on rugged and wild cliffs high above a stretch of the Pacific Ocean are the closest they'll ever get to enjoying a Ireland or Scotland type golf experience with the assitance of a caddie. www.bandondunesgolf.com

Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin

Caddies are required on this walking-only, rugged course along the shores of Lake Michigan that looks as if it has been magically air-dropped in from Ireland. You normally don't think of Wisconsin as a bastion of great golf, but Whistling Straits is one of America's great resort courses. www.destinationkohler.com

Blue Monster at Doral Resort, Miami, Florida

Site of a hugely popular World Golf Championship event, the Blue Monster, with its famous finishing hole, offers forecaddies for cart riders and as well as walking caddies. Though a caddie won't guarantee a birdie on the exceptionally difficult and famous finishing hole, he will provide insight to one of the PGA Tour's great courses.www.doralresort.com

Pinehurst Resort

There is nothing better than playing the famous No. 2 course, site of numerous major golf events, with a knowledgeable caddie who can help read the menacing Donald Ross greens. www.pinehurst.com